Cultures and Religions of the Himalayan Region
Denise M. Simone
The Life of a Tibetan Buddhist Nun
To escape their hard lives, Himalayan women often became Buddhist nuns. While these women had to follow The Eight Strict Codes for a Fully Ordained Nun, a nun's life was preferable to many.
The following excerpts are taken from Kurtis R. Schaeffer's book, Himalayan Hermitess: The Life of a Tibetan Buddhist Nun, Oxford Press, 2004. They are from the words of Orgyan Choki who lived from 1675-1729 who spent her life in Dolpo, the highest inhabited region of the Nepal Himalayas with some mountains over 25,000 feet high. Finding works written by Himalayan women is difficult. This work is especially important as it is the oldest known autobiography authored by a Tibetan woman.
Orgyan Choki became a Tibetan Buddhist nun after a hard and seemingly unhappy childhood. Here is an excerpt from the story of her life:
"Then my hair was cut, my body changed, and I was given the name of Orgyan Chokyi-"Delighting in the Dharma of Orgyan."
She was given to a nun, Ani Drupchenmo, to be further trained in the ways of monastic life, who said, "You must persevere in the Dharma, for if you were to do worldly work in Person, you would be forced into corvee labor spring, summer, winter and fall without rest. As a corvee laborer you would carry water and work all the time. Meet the Dharma, take refuge, study: then you will not suffer."
Orgyan Chokyi lived her life as a nun, then a Hermitess, one who shuns the outside world. She lived alone in a cave for many years meditating in Tibetan Buddhist tradition. From her rocky cave she writes of the new freedoms and joys life brought to her from her solitude. She even composed nature poetry and poetry mean to inspire others of the importance of Dharma and of devotion to her religious practices.
When the lion is on the
Above, a sturdy cave-content.
The pleasant nook of mine,
my rocky cave,
Above, no thunder-what a
Solitary, alone, and looking
Far from the residence hall,
Respond to the following questions in your journal:
This site was created by .... at the NEH Summer Institute "Cultures and Religions of the Himalayan Region," held at the College of the Holy Cross, Summer 2004